Sarah Palin vs. the Media

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In the wake of John McCain’s surprising VP pick, the media’s rush to answer the question “Who is Sarah Palin?” was quick and intense.

But when news broke that her 17-year old unwed daughter was pregnant, the scrutiny became both personal and political, sparking intense debate about what’s fair and foul in campaign coverage.

Palin has dominated the headlines of nearly every major news outlet and many minor ones for the last week. You might think the McCain campaign would welcome the spotlight shining on someone other than Barack Obama, but instead, they’re outraged. They claim the media’s treatment of Palin–which has included stories about her pregnant daughter, questions about her qualifications for the job and the McCain campaign’s vetting process, inquiries into ethics scandals under investigation in Alaska, and examinations of her record–is sexist, liberally biased, and out of line. The campaign is even now refusing to answer further questions about Palin’s vetting.

Surely the McCain campaign can’t be surprised that voters and reporters want to know more about a woman whose name few outside of Alaska even recognized two weeks ago. But would the questions being asked of Sarah Palin be asked of a male candidate? And has the media gone too far?

Here’s a round-up of opinions on the key fronts in the Palin media wars. What’s your take?

Palin and John McCain and the Republicans deserve every column inch, every broadcast second of scrutiny they’re getting. I believe–unlike Barack Obama–that members of a candidate’s family are fair game once a candidate thrusts them onto the public stage–as did Palin when McCain presented her as his pick for vice president in Dayton, Ohio, last Friday. The eagerness with which politicians deploy their children as campaign props stands as an open invitation to the press to write about them. –Jack Shafer at Slate

The spin du jour is that her choice reflects poorly on Candidate McCain because she wasn’t properly vetted. Yet this seems to be false. . . . On Monday, Time magazine’s Nathan Thornburgh wrote from Wasilla, Alaska, that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy had been known by virtually everyone there, with little made of it. But what do these private family matters have to do with Mrs. Palin’s credentials to be Vice President in any case?Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook

They have said this was Bristol’s decision and we should honor that. . . . The reason why I think it’s fair game is Sarah Palin is on record saying she would veto abortions for women even in the event of being raped. So what she is in essence saying: Respect my family’s ability to make this decision and elect me so that I can keep your family from having the same opportunities. –Jon Stewart, September 3, on the Daily Show

What we’re dealing with now, there’s nothing subtle about it. We’re dealing with the assumption that child-rearing is the job of women and not men. Is it sexist? Yes. –Georgetown professor Deborah Tannen, quoted by Politico, responding to questions about whether Palin’s maternal responsibilities are compatible with the VP job.

Palin is simply not known. McCain’s staff says the press is punishing her because pundits so desperately want to be in the know. But leaking has its benefits, one of which is that her flaws might have been scrutinized and even dismissed ahead of time by the press. –David Folkenflik at Media Circus, NPR

We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice? Bad questions. Bad media. Bad. –A sarcastic Roger Simon at Politico

Image by buddhakiwi, licensed under Creative Commons.

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